Did you hang up your boxing gloves when you found yoga? Now there’s no need. BoxingYoga™, the latest yoga hybrid workout, is attracting fans from inside and outside the ring, and it’s about to expand in the U.S.
“We launched in 2013 [in London], but we’re just coming to America now,” says BoxingYoga Master Coach Kajza Ekberg, whose business partner is BoxingYoga Founder and CEO Matt Garcia. “We have two teachers at four different venues in San Francisco. There are 20–30 people in every class. We’re having a teacher training at the Yoga Garden in San Francisco in March; it’s our first teacher training in America. We need instructors so we’re going out there to train people. So many people want to take classes but we don’t have [enough] coaches.”
BoxingYoga was originally intended to specifically address the needs of boxers: to open up tight muscles in the chest, shoulders, and hips; create mobility in the spine; develop core strength and flexibility; and help boxers stay grounded and loose, among other benefits. So why is it attracting yoga purists? “Many people love the benefits of yoga but they still want a more physical workout—they want to sweat,” says Ekberg, who had a background in yoga (her mother was an Ashtanga yoga teacher), dance, and martial arts, before she met Garcia and helped him develop BoxingYoga. BoxingYoga is based on Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow, but the practice avoids Sanskrit in preference of “very functional, plain language.” BoxingYoga also steers clear of the more spiritual aspects of yoga. “We are a yoga-based training system, a training regime based upon asana. We don’t claim to be spiritual,” Ekberg explains, adding that BoxingYoga can offer benefits beyond the physical. “For me personally, through movement I feel grounded. It keeps me staying centered and that’s what we are teaching. We don’t call it meditation, we call it focus.”
11-Pose BoxingYoga Flow
The following sequence is an extract from the original BoxingYoga class structure that consists of 4 stages (warm-up, strengthening, mobility, and cool-down). Perform poses 1–9 in a flow on both sides and hold each posture for 3 deep and calm breaths.
1. The Boxer’s Lunge II
The Boxer’s Lunge II helps participants coordinate upper and lower body biomechanics and practice upper body boxing technique while stretching the hips, hamstrings, and psoas (the muscles that help flex the hips). The pose also strengthens the core and legs and encourages a grounded, stable stance. Participants may also use this pose to test their balance and center of gravity.
Hold a strong High Lunge, aiming for a 90-degree angle in the front leg and a straight back leg. Keep the hips parallel with an engaged core and lifted spine. Balance weight evenly between both legs, keep the chin down, and cover the jaw with the lead shoulder. Keep the wrists straight and the front knee directly above the heel.
2. Transition: Boxer’s Lunge II Twist
Extend the reach of the lead arm by rotating the torso slightly to the side. Aim to get the shoulders into one line. Keep the hips square and the rear heel lifted.
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3. Lunging Arm Circle
BoxingYoga makes a number of Lunge variations to strengthen the legs and core and to stretch and open the hips, chest, and spine. This helps boxers develop stamina and prevent rigidity, immobility, and inflexibility. The lunges are also designed to improve coordination and balance, lowering the center of gravity and stabilizing the stance.
Come into strong High Lunge with feet hip-width apart. Drop the arms to the sides, inhale, and circle the arms back and up around the body. Look up at a 45-degree angle and elongate the spine while keeping a grounded stance. On an exhalation, gently clench hands into fists and draw both elbows down to a 90-degree angle or a classical “boxer’s guard.” Release any tension from the shoulders and neck, pull the elbows in close to protect the rib cage, and use fists to cover the jaw.
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5. Knuckle Plank
Plank strengthens the arms, core, and legs, builds shoulder stability, and develops upper-body explosiveness. Performed on the fists, Plank also strengthens the forearms and stabilizes the wrists, a fragile area for boxers that requires attention and care.
Support the body on the fists and the feet. Ensure that the thumb is placed outside the hand and tucked in. Step feet hip-width apart and bring shoulders directly above the fists. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels and engage the core to support the lower back. Widen the shoulder blades and align the neck with the rest of the spine.
6. Transition: Low Plank
Make it more intense: Bend the elbows to hold a lower stance (aka Chaturanga). Keep your body engaged and aligned body while pushing back through the heels.
7. Upward-Facing Dog Pose
Upward-Facing Dog stretches the abdominals and hip flexors while increasing spinal flexibility. (This is a great counter-stretch for boxers, who typically hold a guarded posture.) Opening up the chest and shoulders, it also strengthens the core, arms, wrists, legs, and hips.
Place the hands beneath the shoulders and push up, supporting the body on the palms and feet. Keep the elbows tucked in and the shoulders and chest open. Align the neck with the rest of the spine and bring your gaze is slightly forward.
8. The Side Plank Crunch Sequence
An extremely challenging set of poses, the Side Plank Sequence develops shoulder and core strength and stability. It also improves balance, control, and coordination.
From a Side Plank, bend the raised elbow and knee to make a physical connection. Keep the spine straight and push the floor away to engage the abs and lift the hips up.
9. Transition: The Side Plank Crunch Sequence
Maintaining balance, slowly rotate onto the toes and off the supporting foot until the hips and shoulders are parallel to the floor. While rotating, curl the back and crunch the abdominals. Still keeping your balance, lower the raised hand to the floor directly under the shoulder and lengthen the lifted leg. Exhale and bend the elbows slowly and through a controlled Low Plank leading into an Upward-Facing Dog. Repeat poses 1–9 on the other side.
10. Wide-Stance Forward Bend
Wide Stance Forward Bend is integrated into BoxingYoga to develop flexibility in the shoulder and chest area, strengthen the core, and build body awareness for shifting weight. Boxers with a rigid lower back and hips benefit from this posture and its variations by opening and stretching the hamstrings and stabilizing the legs.
Interlock the fingers behind the back and aim to bring the palms together. Open the chest, roll the shoulders back, and engage the core. Inhale and lengthen the spine up, shift the weight onto the toes, exhale and bend forward from the crease of the hips. Maintain a straight spine and neck.
11. Threading the Needle
This pose offers a deep twist of the spine to increase range of movement. It also opens and stretches the chest and shoulders, which tend to be extremely tight areas for boxers.
From a tabletop position, slide one arm under the torso, palm facing up. Rest the shoulder and head gently on the floor. Lift the opposite arm up perpendicular to the ground, and reach back for the crease of the hip on the opposite side. If possible, grab hold of the inside of the opposite thigh to deepen the twist in the spine and open up the chest and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat the stretch on the other side.
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